copywriting-image16. Killer poet copy

Here at Copyblogger we love Ernest Hemingway and David Sedaris. But we aren’t so enamored by their writing abilities that we try to imitate their styles at the expense of teaching and selling.

Our goal isn’t to convince our audience that we’re smart — it’s educating and selling with our copy.

As David Ogilvy once said, “We sell, or else.” But we try to sell with style. We try to balance the killer with the poet.

Killer poet copy sees writing as a means to an end (making a sale), and the ad as an end in itself (beautiful design and moving story).

In other words, the killer poet combines style with selling. Creativity with marketing. Story with solution.

7. Direct-from-CEO copy

It’s a known fact — third-party endorsements can help you sell products.

But it’s equally effective to position your selling argument as a direct communication between the company founder and his or her customer.

This down-to-earth approach levels the playing field. It telegraphs to the customer, “See, the CEO isn’t some cold and remote figurehead interested in profit only. He’s approachable and friendly. He cares about us.”

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is a superb example:

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Notice this letter is conversational as well as plain: it’s a simple statement of the facts and benefits between two people: Jeff and you.

8. Frank copy

Some copy will explain the ugly truth about the product.

This approach doesn’t start with the jewels of your goods — it’s going to start with the warts.

When selling a car, you might point out the endless repairs that need to be done — thin brake pads, leaky transmission, busted sway bar, and inoperable dashboard — before you introduce the leather seats, Monsoon stereo system, sun roof, brand-new tires and supercharged engine.

What you’re saying is this car will need a lot of TLC. You might even go as far as to say, “Make no mistake here — there’s much work to be done here.”

And here’s a curious thing: when you are honest and transparent about product weaknesses, the customer trusts you.

When the reader trusts you, they will be considerably more likely to believe you when you point out the good qualities of your product.

9. Superlative copy

There are also times when you can make outlandish claims.

Claims like (these are actual ads):

  • “A revolutionary material from this Nevada mine could make investors a fortune in 2013″
  • “Stores across U.S. selling out of what some call a new ‘miracle’ diet fighter”
  • “Obey this one weird loophole to get car insurance as low as $9″

But you can only make extraordinary claims when you have the proof to back it up. The evidence can be in statistics, testimonials, or research — or preferably all three.

The problem with superlative copy is that it’s often hard to make outlandish claims and not sound like you are hyping it up — so use this type of copy sparingly.

Generally, it’s good to follow the “Remove All Hype” policy.

10. Rejection copy

Rejection copy turns conventional wisdom on its head. and tries to discourage people from being interested in your product.

This type of copy is a direct challenge to the reader that leverages the velvet rope approach — the idea that only an exclusive set of people are invited to use a product.

The American Express Black Card is a good example here — this card is reserved for the world’s wealthiest and most elite. The only way you can get your hands on one is if you are invited.

Similarly, consider the dating site Beautiful People. If you want to be part of this exclusive dating club made up of “beautiful” people, then you have to be voted in by existing members:

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Potential rejection startles readers — they don’t expect to be turned down, especially not from an advertiser.

This approach also keys into our sense of wanting to belong. It generates that curiosity itch and activates our pride. We think, “How dare they say I might not be good enough to get into their club? I’ll show them.”

Over to you …

In the end, great copy often combines several of these techniques into one ad.

The CEO of a company writes a conversational sales letter built around a story about his passion for his product (whether it is peaches or water pumps).

A copywriter writes a long rejection ad that explains why certain people are excluded from receiving an invitation to dine at an exclusive restaurant.

Or a Savile Row tailor writes a plain but elegant sales letter about his suits, which have been worn by kings and presidents.

This is the art and science of copywriting.

Can you share any examples of good copy you’ve seen recently out there in the wild?

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